Month: March 2010

99. Dr. Jeffrey Long Takes On Critics of, Evidence of the Afterlife

Near-Death experience researcher Dr. Long offers a point-by-point response to skeptics of his New York Time best seller, Evidence of the Afterlife. When near-death experience researcher Dr. Jeffery Long decided to publish his 10-year study of NDEs he knew there would be controversy, and critics.  His conclusion, that consciousness survives bodily death and moves to an afterlife, is unsettling to many within a medical community built on death being absolute and final.  But rather than shy away from critics, Dr. Long has engaged them. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an in-depth interview with near-death experience researcher, Dr, Jeffrey Long. During the 45-minute interview Dr. Long offers a point-by-point response to skeptics of his New York Time best seller, Evidence of the Afterlife. In response to the criticisms of former Skeptiko guest Dr. G.M. Woerlee, Dr. Long said, "I think one of the biggest defenses from people that don't believe in an afterlife, and this was brought out in your interview with Dr. Woerlee, is this barrier where they won't hear it. They won't respond to it. It's just not something they care to address, which is somewhat surprising. I think all scholarly discussion of really any topic requires an open-minded dialogue about the evidence. It really starts with evidence." Regarding speculation that NDEs result from regaining consciousness during CPR chest compressions, Dr. Long said, "When you talk to the patients who have actually survived CPR one thing that is very, very obvious is that the substantial majority of them are confused or amnesic when they're recovered. If you read even a few near-death experiences, you immediately realize essentially none of them talk about episodes of confusion when they just don't understand what's going on. You really don't see that at all. In fact, our research found that 76% of people having a near-death experience said their level of consciousness and alertness during the NDE was actually greater than their earthly, everyday life.  So, you have to come away with the conclusion that even if there's blood flow to the brain induced by CPR, it's not correlated with the level of consciousness and alertness reported during near-death experiences." Dr. Long continues, "But also, in addition, the substantial majority of people that have a near-death experience associated with cardiac arrest are actually seeing their physical body well prior to the time that CPR is initiated. Once CPR is initiated, you don't see any alteration in the flow of the near-death experience, suggesting that blood flow to the brain isn't affecting the content in any way." Dr. Long also discusses the nature of NDE skepticism, "The other issue I've seen with skeptics is they often have their pet theory. Their theory of how the world works, how things work, and it's very, very difficult to dislodge them from their pet theory, even with overwhelming evidence." In the end Dr. Jeffery Long believes in his evidence, "I have confidence in the substantial majority of people. When they hear evidence, and it's presented in a straightforward way, they're smart enough to understand what's real evidence and what's evasiveness." Jeffrey Long, M.D., is a near death experience researcher and physician (radiation oncology). His book, 'Evidence of the Afterlife' (HarperCollins), was published in 2009. From Dr. Long's website: Does Near-Death Experience (NDE) Evidence Prove an Afterlife? Consider the Evidence, and Determine YOUR Answer! Play it: Download MP3 (43:03 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We're joined today by Dr. Jeffrey Long, a practicing physician, he's a radiation oncologist, and a near-death experience researcher. His book, Evidence of the Afterlife, is the most comprehensive study of NDEs ever published and it's been a huge success. Dr. Long, welcome back to Skeptiko.


98. Near-Death Experience Skeptic, Dr. G.M. Woerlee Takes Aim at Dr. Jeffrey Long’s, Evidence of the Afterlife

Anesthesiologist Dr. G.M. Woerlee believes NDEs are in our body and our brain - not in the afterlife. As a practicing anesthesiologist in the Netherlands G.M. Woerlee M.D. has seen many approach death's door.  For those returning with stories of an afterlife he advises a closer look at the medical evidence. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for a vigorous discussion with near-death experience skeptic, anesthesiologist G.M. Woerlee. During the 90-minute episode Woerlee sets out to refute the research Dr. Jeffrey Long published in, Evidence of the Afterlife. According to Woerlee, there are a number of conventional medical explanations for the phenomena reported during NDEs, "ultimately, when you look at the total body of evidence explaining the physiological or biological basis of the near-death experience, the out-of-body experience, and the other experiences as reported by those undergoing near-death experiences, you come to the conclusion that most of them -- in fact all of them -- can be explained by body function and the changes in body function induced by the various - I call them stressors - or causes of the near-death experience. Hypoxia, drugs, anxiety and on and on." The discussion includes a point-by-point examination of the nine lines of evidence for the existence of an afterlife as outlined in Dr. Jeffrey Long's book.  Dr. Long has agreed to issues a response during a future episode of Skeptiko. Read Dr. Woerlee's critique Evidence of the Afterlife Read a detailed response from Kieth Wood, a Skepitko listener Read/Listen to Dr. Long's response Get a free download of Dr. Woerlee's book: The Unholy Legacy of Abraham Play it: Download MP3 (89:37 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We're joined today by someone well qualified to enter into a discussion on the evidence of survival of consciousness and the near-death experience. Dr. G.M. Woerlee is a well-respected anesthesiologist in the Netherlands, a frequent lecturer in his field, and an author of three books including, Mortal Minds: The Biology of Near-Death Experiences. Dr. Woerlee, welcome to Skeptiko.


97. Rupert Sheldrake and Richard Wiseman Clash Over Parapsychology Experiments

Lively debate between biologist Rupert Sheldrake and telepathy skeptic Richard Wiseman reveals wide rift between skeptics and psi proponents Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for a spirited debate between biologist, author, and telepathy researcher, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, and noted researcher of anomalous psychology, and parapsychology skeptic, Dr. Richard Wiseman. During the 90-minute episode Sheldrake and Wiseman discuss the scientific evidence for telepathy and other psi phenomena. The debate covers a range of topics, but according to moderator Alex Tsakiris, the real friction began after the debate ended, "During the debate, Dr. Wiseman appeared eager to participate in collaborative research with parapsychologists.  He went to great lengths explaining why skeptics and psi proponents should team-up on experiments of telepathy and other psi phenomena.  But during an email exchange following the debate (published on the Skeptiko website), his stance took a radical change." According to Tsakiris, Wiseman stonewalled attempts to create a skeptics/proponents research forum,  "I contacted three very prominent psi researchers and convinced them to take Wiseman up on his offer.  They agree, but Wiseman would not.  He made various demands aimed at agitating the other researchers, and even balked at a mere one-hour initial dialog.  I was stunned, especially since I offered to fund the research." The discussion began with Professor Richard Wiseman offering a defense for scientific skepticism regarding psi phenomena, "In terms of my own research, some of it has looked at the notion that certain individuals possessing very strong psychic abilities, the mediums and the psychics and so on, and I'm very, very skeptical about that data. I don't think it shows anything particularly remarkable in terms of psychic ability going on. And then I've done a small amount of work, although other people have done a lot more, into the notion that psi is a more subtle signal. There, I'm fairly skeptical about the literature. I certainly wouldn't want to argue the case that psi definitely exists on the basis of that literature." But Sheldrake challenged the idea of relegating telepathy and other psi phenomena to the fringes of science, "I just want to go back a bit to what Richard called the Humian argument against miracles. Hume's argument against miracles was that miracles are extremely rare and it's more likely that people have been lying about them than that they actually happened. They so defy the common experience of humanity. Now, I think the argument is exactly reversed when it comes to phenomena like telepathy. They're not extremely rare. Whether it's 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent of the population who have had them, the details don't matter. The point is these things are very common.  Hume's argument was that commonsense, the kind of common experience of the bulk of humanity, is what gives credence to something. So I think it's completely inappropriate to apply an argument against miracles to phenomena which happen on an everyday basis to large numbers of people." Next, the discussion examined the institution of science itself.  Wiseman was asked to defend his statement, "I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that is proven. That begs the question do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal?". In defense of this, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" argument, Wiseman stated, "I think that parapsychologists by not far from 100 years of research have failed to come up with that level of evidence. It's not to say they couldn't in the future, but to me there just hasn't been the level of progress that you would expect given the amount of work that's been put in... that strength of evidence simply isn't there." To which Sheldrake responded, "Again, I come back to the fact that what we're dealing with here is an ideological issue. I mean, what Richard calls mainstream science and there's a kind of materialistic faith that many scientists have, at least in public. Many of them in private have telepathic experiences and have quite different views. Nevertheless, he's right. There is a kind of materialistic ethos in science. I think that itself is something we need to question and look at because it leads to an extraordinary blindness. He said that if you said there's a car outside, you wouldn't need to look. If you said there's a spaceship, you would, because that's an incredible claim. So it's okay for cosmologists to claim there are entire universes out there, a whole lot of universes, not just one, but trillions. No one bothers to look. The reason that gets past the filters is it doesn't overturn a particular ideology. What's at stake is not science itself but ideology." Special thanks to Bruce Mann. Play it: Download MP3 (75:48 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We have a very special live dialogue today between Dr. Richard Wiseman, Professor of Psychology at University of Herefordshire in the UK. In addition to his job there at the university, Dr. Wiseman, as many of you know, is also a parapsychology skeptic and an author of many popular books such as Quirkology, which explores the quirky way our mind works.